Fast food refers to food that can be prepared and served quickly. It can come from many places: sit-down restaurants, counter service, take-out, drive-thru, and delivery. Fast food is popular because the food is inexpensive, convenient, and tastes good. However, fast food is often made with cheaper ingredients such as high fat meat, refined grains, and added sugar and fats, instead of nutritious ingredients such as lean proteins, whole grains, fresh fruits, and vegetables. Fast food is also high in sodium (aka salt) which is used as a preservative and makes food more flavorful and satisfying.
There is no such thing as a “bad” food, but there are some foods you should try not to have on a regular basis. Because fast food is high in sodium, saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol, it isn’t something you should eat often. Eating too much over a long period of time can lead to issues such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and unwanted weight gain. Since eating a lot of trans fats can cause certain heart health problems, the FDA (Federal Food and Drug Administration) has required that artificial trans fats from partially hydrogenated oils be removed from foods sold at restaurants by 2020.
People also often drink soda when they eat fast food which adds “empty” calories (calories that don’t make you feel full or provide any nutrients besides sugar) to the meal. It’s helpful to remember that with fast food, moderation is important.
Is some fast food healthier than others?
Many fast food chains have updated their menus to include healthier options. For example, many have menu items that contain fruits and vegetables. Some menus even have special items labeled as “light” or “less than 500 calories” to help consumers easily identify lighter menu items. While lower calorie menu options are not necessarily “healthier,” the calorie counts can be helpful to reference when deciding between a few meal options. If you’re having fast food more than once a week, try to choose from some of the healthier choices on the menu. You can also often look at the nutrition facts on the restaurant’s website if you’re curious.